Survival of the Fittest Thoughts

"It doesn't matter what you learn about nutrition, if you don't also learn to love yourself, you will never give the body what it needs" – Maria Ayne R.H.N.

Craving chocolate?

DSC_8316-32I have had a bit of a chocolate craving the last few days, but I do my best to avoid store bought chocolate, even most retail raw/paleo options.  Often the retail options have ingredients like soy lecithin or agave, which sure, they qualify as “raw” but don’t translate to healthy. So, after dinner tonight I felt inspired to get in the kitchen and make my own Paleo/Raw Chocolate Fruit and Nut Bars.   As soon as this little treat was ready I got into it.   I wasn’t planning on posting two recipes in a row on the blog, but these were so good I just couldn’t resist posting them straight away!

This guilt-free pleasure was the perfect combination of sweet, salty, and crunchy.

Note: When I say guilt-free, I mean that when it is used sparingly as a treat.  Even raw desserts should be consumed in moderation.

I found everything I needed to make this recipe at Sprout Wholefood Grocer in Naremburn, but most organic shops should have what you need.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw cacao butter (melted)
  • 1 tablespoon raw coconut oil (melted)
  • 2-3 tablespoons raw maple syrup (or honey)
  • 1/2 teaspoon raw vanilla bean powder
  • 6 tablespoons raw cocoa powder
  • DSC_8224-263/4 cup of dried berry and activated nut mixture (I used shredded coconut, goji berries, raisins, pecans, cashews and almonds–because that’s what I had around the house– I also chopped up the nuts into small pieces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Note to melt the cacao butter: bring water to a boil in a medium sauce pan (about 1/4 full) remove from heat and place cacao butter in a heat proof bowl, place the bowl that has the cacao butter in it into the hot water sauce pan.   Stir until it melts, then remove it from the heat so the temperature comes back down.  Make sure you do not get any water in to the cacao butter.

Directions:

Once cacao butter is melted, add coconut oil, and maple syrup till they all dissolve.   Then add the vanilla bean and cacao powder–one tablespoon at a time, mixing between each tablespoon. Place the bowl back into the hot water sauce pan, to heat it up again.  Then whisk until it’s smooth and doesn’t look grainy.  Remove the bowl from the heat again and add the DSC_8313-31fruit and nut mixture, stirring until combined.  Let your chocolate mixture sit at room temperature for about 10 mins. Meanwhile, line a 9 inch tray with parchment paper.   Pour the liquid chocolate mixture on your tray.  Sprinkle sea salt over your chocolate. Finally put it in the freezer for one hour, or the fridge for at least two hours.  Break your chocolate bark into pieces as large or as small as your heart desires and serve.

 

You can store your leftover chocolate in a airtight container in your fridge for quite some time. Enjoy!

If you try this recipe, then please don’t forget to keep me posted on how it goes.

DSC_8320-33

Paleo/Raw Chocolate Fruit and Nut Bark

 

Sending love from Sydney,

Maria

 

 

All my dairy-free readers are going to fall in love with this recipe.   Every time I make this cashew cream non-cheese and let someone have a taste, the first word to come out of their mouth is YUM!    I often eat this with raw crackers (recipe to come) or spread it on some wild smoked salmon…Mmmm my mouth is literally watering just thinking about it!

DSC_8111-26-2

Lemon & Dill Cashew Cream Non-Cheese (Raw, GF, DF, Vegan)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups raw cashews (soaked for two hours)

Juice of one lemon

3 large cloves garlic (use 4 if the cloves are small)

4 tablespoons of fresh dill chopped

1 chive, thinly sliced (I only use the light green part, so I use 2 chives)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/3 cup filtered water

 

Directions:

To soak the cashews, place them in a medium bowl with water.   The water should be about 1-2 inches above the top of the cashews.
Drain cashews after two hours and place all of the ingredients, except the 1/3 cup filtered water, in a food processor or high speed blender (I prefer using a processor for this particular recipe, but a blender works well too).  Slowly increase the speed and blend for about 1 minute.  With a spatula, scrap down the sides, pour in the filtered water and blend for another few minutes.   Pour contents in a mason jar with a tight lid, and store in the fridge for 12-14 hours to thicken and then it’s ready to eat.   This recipe can be stored in the fridge for about a week.

Bon appetite!

-Maria

Let’s face it, taking responsibility for your health, initially, can feel painful. It requires withdrawal from your favourite foods; time away from lounging on the couch and watching the bachelor (admit it you watch it); it often means you have to learn to pre-plan meals and perhaps adopt the habit of carrying a snack-pack full of celery (yummy) just in case hunger strikes at an inopportune time or place. Then of course, there is that social factor. It’s not uncommon for those around you to so generously provide you with ample opportunities to display that willpower you have been so actively exercising. It’s not bad enough that you have to convince your brain that you are enjoying that celery as much as your co-worker is enjoying that glazed donut they are stuffing down their face. It took a lot of self reflection to come to a place in life where being called a “rabbit” for eating salad didn’t retard my progress by making me feel a sense of shame. By the way, if you would take great offence if someone referred to you as a slightly larger, pink barn-yard animal with a snout and curly tail, then chances are that that person doesn’t appreciate being labelled as a “rabbit’ or any other barn-yard animal either–just saying.

IMG_0773

You will feel very differently about these after you’ve read this post.

Perhaps my all time favourite is when, while stuffing their face with that donut, one says “Well, I’d rather eat this and die happy.” A brief moment of deep panic sets in as you fear you may not have your priorities straight. Not only is Mr. Donut-Face more up-to-date with today’s important current events–like who the bachelor picked–but he has also somehow convinced you that you are going to wither down to the size of a rabbit and may die a miserable old hag! Oh, ya “I’d rather die happy” why didn’t I think of that? Well, if eating whatever your heart desires makes you happy, then who can argue with that? Oh wait… that’s right, I can!

Unless you are planning on dying in the next few minutes with that said donut in your hands, then you will not die any happier than the person who learned to say no to instant gratification. In actuality, if your goal at the end of your life is to in fact “die happy”, then you need to very carefully step away from the donut and arm yourself with a few new habits instead.

5 Ways to Die Happier

#1.

We are all aware that over-consumption of sugar is a primary factor in developing type 2 (insulin resistance) diabetes. You may also know that type 2 diabetes can rob you of many of the joys in life, for example sight or mobility. Diabetes can ultimately lead to blurred vision, nerve damage and loss of feeling in your feet, but what many of us aren’t aware of is that researchers have known for some time that there is a strong link between type 2 diabetes and dementia. The research estimates that you are 125% more likely to become demented in your later years if you have diabetes. I don’t know about you, but I would assume that it would be pretty hard to die happy if you can’t remember any of the things in life you are happy about.

The old adage “Use it or lose it” very much applies to your brain. Continually using your brain and learning new things has proven to keep your mind sharp well into your older years. Take advantage and double up by educating yourself on what it truly takes to live longer and happier starting here, with 4 more facts you didn’t know about your brain and body.

#2.

In a past post, “Say No to Crack” I explain how a high sugar diet leads to increased abdominal fat. Studies show that those with increased abdominal fat are at greater risk of developing heart disease. While I have been fortunate enough to have never had to experience watching someone die of a heart attack, I’d would say it’s probably fairly safe to assume that they didn’t die smiling. People with belly fat tend to have higher levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which would indicate that not only are they no happier, but they are actually more stressed out.

The good news is that a whole-food, high fibre diet, rich in essential fatty acids can actually decrease your risk of developing heart disease.

#3.

The nutrients you get from your diet are what your brain needs to make “happy hormones” like serotonin or dopamine. Nutrient deficiencies can mean that your brain literally cannot produce the chemicals that evoke good feelings. Even one missing nutrient can pose a threat. It’s kind of like baking, you leave one thing out and the whole recipe is write-off. You may say “Can I eat a salad and then eat the donut?” The truth is…not really. Because refined foods are stripped of their nutrients, they can actually steal from your body the nutrients they need to be metabolized. Many of the nutrients missing in refined sugar–that it then loots from your body–are the exact nutrients your brain would need to make these pleasure inducing chemicals.

You can increase absorption and assimilation of nutrients by working on digestive health. Eliminating refined or processed foods; eating a variety of whole-foods; drinking plenty of water between meals; thoroughly chewing your meals; eating only when you are actually hungry (not bored, craving or overeating); and keeping a peaceful state mind at meal time, are some of the most effective ways to support the digestive system, making it easier to obtain adequate levels of nutrition for all your body’s biochemical processes.

#4.

The reason why one might initially feel happy when they eat sugar is largely because sugar causes large amounts of dopamine to be released in your brain. When large quantities are released at once–or all day long for that matter–the dopamine receptors in your brain then down-regulate. Fewer dopamine receptors means, your brain needs to release even more of this hormone than it would regularly need to, just to feel normal. The result is you feel depressed, until of course, you get your next hit. Just like any highly addictive pleasure-inducing substance, overtime you need more and more, not only to feel the same high, but simply just to feel normal.

Exercise is a healthy and effective way of making sure your brain releases safe levels of these pleasure-inducing endorphins. In addition, physical exercise provides your brain with the neurochemistry that adds new neurons in the area of your brain that is paramount to your memory and attention–which can help you with #1 and #5 ways to die happier.

#5.

In order to get up off the couch and want to exercise, you need motivation. How does one feel motivated? Oh ya, that would be dopamine again. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that regulates motivation. So in other words, no dopamine = no motivation. This is why depressed individuals tend to have little desire to even get up out of bed in the morning. To add fuel to the fire, there are two sides to your prefrontal cortex in the brain (right and left). Recent studies have shown that people who are generally enthusiastic about life and have a positive outlook, also tend to have increased activity in the left prefrontal cortex–this area of the brain is activated when we are focused and goal oriented. On the flip side, those who lean towards a depressive state, or heightened anxiety, have increased activity in the right prefrontal cortex–which is the area responsible for daydreaming and ruminating. Lack of motivation to do anything, makes it highly likely that you are not spending much time using the left prefrontal cortex and spending too much time using the right prefrontal cortex, exasperating and already miserable state.

Luckily, there is something that can be done about this. It has be proven, that you can change your emotional set point by simply making an effort to practice activities that require presence and focused attention. You can simply start by writing down your goals, and then taking action steps towards them. It makes it much less of an uphill battle if you do what truly inspires you. Overtime, this practice rewires your brain and eventually makes it easier to adopt the new habit of acting with purpose, thus increasing activity in the left PFC, leading to a generally more positive outlook and passion for life.

So there you have it, when it comes to your health, ignorance is not bliss. I’m no human happy calculator, but more sickness, less memory, more belly fat, more stress, less motivation and purpose doesn’t add up to more happiness to me.

I do realize that this was a long post, as it also took a lot of time and effort to write it, but I did it because I think there is no worse fate than being trapped in a miserable body. If you would agree, then try implementing these 5 things, and join me in my quest to die happy.

Sending love and happy vibes from Sydney.
-Maria

 

Raw Coconut/Almond  Yogurt
Raw Coconut Almond Yogurt

I was excited to share this recipe with you guys, because I got really good feedback on the granola recipe I posted a week or so ago.  This yogurt goes really well with the granola and it’s such a great intro to raw “cooking”.  This yogurt is so easy to make it’s kind of a joke.

Since I have learned how to make this yogurt I have made a slue of different raw salad dressings, dips, pesto pizza sauce and even frozen yogurt (recipes still to come) using this yogurt as a base.

Ingredients

2 cups of young thai coconut meat OR 2 two cups of soaked raw almonds (soaked for 24 hours) OR one cup of each

One cup of coconut water (bit more or less depending on how thick you want it)

1/2 teaspoon probiotic blend powder or 2 probiotic capsules (open the capsules and just use the powder)

Directions

Blend all ingredients together in a blender. Note: if you don’t own a vitamix or blendtec blender then you may NOT want to use the almonds.  I also peel my almonds after they have been soaked, but it’s not imperative.

Pour mixture into a container that has a lid, but don’t put the lid on just yet. Cover the yogurt with paper towel and let it sit out for 4-6 hours (depending on the temperature and humidity of your room)  until the probiotics start to activate and make the yogurt tangy. On hot humid days 4 hours should be sufficient and cold days you will need the whole 6 hours. You can taste it at 4 hours and if it’s really tangy like yogurt and it has thickened, then it’s likely ready.  Cover with a lid and put it in the fridge.

This delicious yogurt should be good for a few days in the fridge.

Notes:

If you don’t like the bits of almond skin in there then you can drain the yogurt through a cheese cloth.

To make the next batch you do not need more probiotics, a spoonful of the previous yogurt will be enough to culture the new batch. When you do this you will not need to let it sit out for the whole 6 hours. 4 hours should be enough time.

If your yogurt starts to go pink then you have left it out for too long and you should start over. DO NOT EAT PINK YOGURT PLEASE!

Good luck with this recipe and keep me posted on how your yogurt turns out.

Thanks for reading!

-Maria

Ever since I was a young girl I took my big sister’s words as gold.  If she rejected an idea then I followed suit. If she approved of something, then there was a good chance I would do it.  I have never gone ahead and done something that big sis’ disapproved of…until now.   My sister, who doesn’t even have a Facebook account, can’t fathom why anyone would desire to put it all out there and start a blog.   In fact, most of my friends and family who see how much I have on my plate at the present time, are a bit confused at my commitment to write.

This blog, like all the other crazy things I do, is centred around my great desire to maintain my own health and vitality.

IMG_6988I really enjoy writing, and feel more purposeful when I happened to write about the things in life that I am most passionate about.  As soon I log onto my blog and tap away at my keyboard, nothing else seems to matter, time stops, I become present and focused, a tranquility fills my mind and a calmness sweeps into my space.  This is the state where creativity lies.

The human body has always fascinated me, but I think I was the most enamoured by our design when I first learned about the direct link between creativity and healing.

I’ll never forget the day where I first grasped this information about the Autonomic Nervous System.  Basically, that there are two parts; our Sympathetic Nervous System (flight or flight); and our Parasympathetic Nervous System (rest and relaxation).   In times of stress or crisis, we release the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol.  These hormones increase our heart-rate, heighten our senses, raise our blood sugar, and allow us to become alert in preparation for a fight or flight from danger.   Our Parasympathetic Nervous System is where our body repairs itself, digestion takes place, and where the immune and reproductive systems kick in.   The two nervous systems work independently of each other.  In other words, you cannot be in both systems simultaneously.   Either you are in perceived danger and your body is in a reactive state, prepared for battle, or you are healing.   At no time is your body able to do both.  This is because our digestion, immunity, reproductive system, growth and repair etc. are extremely metabolically expensive.  Our cleverly designed little bodies know that during a threat, these systems are not critical to our survival, and rather the energy needs to be saved for let’s say, to run from a sabre tooth tiger, or perhaps a tsunami.

Sure, it’s not often we have to run from a sabre tooth tiger these days (thank god), but any perceived threat or stress will kick your body into fight or flight.   Constant worry, anxiety, fear of the future, stressful jobs, break-ups and so on, keep our bodies in a perpetual state of fight or flight.   That is not what our stress response was designed for.  It was meant to assist us in a short brush with danger.  Once we either out ran the sabre tooth, or we somehow managed to kill it with our bare hands, we would then lay under a tree somewhere and relax.   This continual state of emergency we tend to currently live in, means we are not giving our bodies enough time in PNS or rest and relaxation.   Even when we do sit down and rest, we have a hard time turning our mind away from our crisis, so we remain under distress.

Okay, so what the hell does that have to do with me writing?

I only recently learned that creativity is only possible when you are in PNS.  That means if you are doing something you love, something that requires no motivation, but simply inspiration, where hours can just pass by and you have completely lost your sense of time, then you have forced your brain to switch into a place where you are literally healing.   This is why you might hear someone say that playing an instrument feels therapeutic to them…that is because it actually is!

Starting this blog required me to push through a lot of insecurities, as it puts me at greater risk of being judged or ridiculed.  It goes against the advice of the person who’s opinion means the most to me.  As someone who used her English class in high school as more of a spare block than anything else, it was with great difficulty that I came to the idea that I had any right to start a blog.   But, once I learned the benefit of abandoning all those worries and just doing what I loved, as it relates to my wellbeing, then it became a paramount part of my wellness routine, just the same as exercising, eating well and positive thinking.

You may say that you are not creative, but it’s not true.  Any activity that you get lost in: cooking, painting, gardening, etc.  are spaces where you are healing.   Whatever the belief you have that limits you from doing something that inspires you, it’s time to retire it, as those limiting beliefs are literally killing you.

When the voice and the vision on the inside become louder and more profound than the opinions expressed on the outside, then you have began to master your life.

-Dr Demartini

IMG_6984

Hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it.   Shares, follows and likes really give me the courage to keep going and are greatly appreciated.

Sending love from Sydney

-Maria

 

 

Whole Food Granola--Refined sugar free, gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free

Whole Food Granola–Refined sugar free, gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free

In my series of 5 Ideas That Completely Changed the Way I Eat, the first idea “Say No to Crack“, was about making better choices at breakfast time, so I thought it would be appropriate that my first recipe on the blog be one of that can help with that choice.

I fell in love with this granola when I went gluten-free and dairy-free 3 years ago.   The great thing about this recipe is that I used absolutely no refined sugar!

Listed under “ingredients” are the ones I used in the picture, but to add variety to my routine, I often substitute some of the nuts and seeds.    If you have a nut allergy then you can use buckwheat, and your choice of seeds.  This recipe can also be made raw, but since I am currently travelling and my food dehydrator is half-way across world, I only have times for cooking.

Ingredients:

1 cup of raw organic sliced almonds (or any other nut of your choice)

1 cup of raw organic walnut pieces (or any other nut of your choice)

1/2 raw organic pumpkin seed (or any seed of your choice)

1/2 raw organic sunflower seed (or any seed of your choice)

1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

A generous amount of cinnamon (this depends on your taste)

1/2 cup of pitted Medjool dates

2 teaspoons water

2 tablespoons maple syrup (or honey)

1 tablespoon coconut oil (melted)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees celsius. Grease a large baking sheet.

In a blender or food processor, mix dates and water until it forms a paste. In a medium mixing bowl combine the rest of the ingredients. Add the date and water mixture to the nut mixture. Make sure all the nuts and seeds are well coated with the honey and coconut oil (you may need to add a bit more honey or maple syrup, depending on the nuts you used).

Spread the mixture on the baking sheet and bake for 25 mins. With a spatula, mix and flip the granola mixture and bake for another 25-35 minutes. Turn off oven and let the granola sit in the warm oven for 2 hours.

dsc_4218Serve as a cereal with sliced or dried fruit, and coconut or almond milk, or just eat on its own as a tasty treat.  Store the granola in your fridge for up to a week.

For a more salty taste you can add 1 teaspoon of salt before baking.

Can’t wait to hear your feedback on this one. If you are enjoying these recipes and posts, then please don’t forget to share them.

Thanks for reading!

-Maria

Not sold?

How about if I very cleverly package it with the word “Organic” on it?  “Vegan”? “Gluten-Free”? “Reduces Appetite”? “No Sugar Added”? Oh oh, I know… “Fat-Free”!

We are all taught, from a young age, that heroin–no matter where you buy it, how much it costs, and how cleverly it is packaged–is garbage.   When it comes to what we eat, we have a harder time distinguishing between what is healthy, and what is garbage.

As a general rule, if you would be extremely concerned if your dog got into it, and ate it, then you probably shouldn’t be feeding it to your kids either.  It might also be a good idea for you to pass on it too.  All jokes aside, thanks to brilliant marketing, it is getting harder and harder to know how to properly read a food label, and then accurately assess if it’s nutritious, or toxic.

For the most part, real food is not preserved in a package,  which eliminates the space to write these tricky little labels, or a list of ingredients.   Real foods (healthy foods), have a short shelf life; are one ingredient long; can’t be stored in a cardboard box in your pantry for months; and are unrefined, whole-foods.  Thus, if you are reading a label, then that is a good sign, that it does not qualify as healthy.

That said, in this day, packaged foods are so popular for a reason.  They are convenient, and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Even I have some packaged foods in my cupboard at this very moment.  When I buy these foods, I read the labels, and do my best to determine which of the options, in my opinion, is less toxic to my body.  Words like “natural” or “calories” have little to do with my decision. To me, it’s all about the quality and quantity of the actual ingredients.  This post, which is #5 out of 5 Simple Ideas That Completely Changed the Way I Eat, is meant to help make reading these labels, a little less deceiving.

Each food in it’s natural unrefined state, contains in that food, all the nutrients needed to properly metabolize it.   For example, raw sugar cane, before separated into two parts–refined white sugar and blackstrap molasses–can actually be considered healthy.  Our body recognizes it; can metabolize it; and readily obtain nutrients from it.   White sugar is devoid of it’s nutrients, so in order to digest it, it must steal from your body all the vitamins, minerals and amino acids required to metabolize it.   Furthermore, refined sugar is robbed of it’s fibre.   Fibre is good because it slows down the rate at which a food is digested.  This is important because it reduces the likelihood that the sugar will be released rapidly into your bloodstream–causing a spike in blood sugar and insulin (the fat storing, stress hormone) release.   My top three choices for added sweeteners are, dates (a whole food), maple syrup (often not raw) and honey (not vegan), simply because consuming these doesn’t mean my body has to be pillaged of it’s own nutrients in order to digest it.

Then there is also the “5 ingredients or less” rule. The rule is…don’t buy anything that contains more than five ingredients.   Again, 5 ingredients or less doesn’t classify it as healthy, but I do think it’s a good idea to avoid most products that have more than 5 ingredients in it.    Greater number of ingredients can mean more processing, and greater toxic load.   Especially, if it sounds like one or more of those said ingredients were made in a laboratory.

One of these things just doesn’t belong here. Can you guess what it is?

A-is for Apple

B-is for Brazil Nut

C-is for Calcium Caseinate

And what about here?
Organic Limes

Organic Limes

 

20 Litres of Gluten-Free, Cholesterol-Free, Halal, Refined Vegetable Oil.

20 Litres of Gluten-Free, Cholesterol-Free, Halal, Natural Source of Omega 3, Refined Vegetable Oil.

 

Organic Berries

Organic Berries

Let’s start giving ourselves more credit… Identifying healthy, is this easy.    Go with your gut, not a fancy label.   While it’s true, when buying produce organic is often a better choice, that doesn’t apply to everything.   Don’t be a sucker for marketing, fancy brown paper bags, and expensive price tags.  A creative campaign never trumps the extraordinary intelligence of Mother Nature.

Sending love from Sydney,

Maria

 

 

 

 

 

“A quality life demands quality questions”  -Dr. John Demartini

…as does a quality diet.

This post is part 4 of 5 simple idea’s that changed the way I eat.

In part 1, “Say no to Crack!” I touched on blood sugar as it relates to food and sugar cravings.  The lower your blood sugar, the more your brain will signal for the quickest hit of sugar, in the largest quantity you could imagine.

Anyone ever tell you “your eyes are bigger than your head”?

Well, that also has a large part to do with where your head is at when you sit down to eat. Let’s say, you have an extra stressful day, maybe work really sucked, or the boss was exceptionally assy that day. Whatever the threat you perceive to your survival in the near future–whether it be a legitimate fear/threat or not–your body will react by wanting to store some energy for it.

How does your body store energy?

Through storing fat.

What’s the quickest way to store fat?

Eat excessive quantities of fat and sugar… STAT!

A large portion of food cravings are governed by these factors.    In this day and age, the majority us rarely need all this superfluous body fat.  Fact is, most of us can actually do with a lot less of it…I’m just saying.

Case and point–that time we all stuffed our basements with 8000 cans of beans for that whole Y2K fiasco.

So then, why in this state, would we think it’s a good idea to stand in front of an open fridge, or pick up a menu and ask ourselves, “What do I FEEL like eating?”

Who was the genius who came up with that question?

Duh, I feel like eat junk food right now.  Here’s an idea, how about I ask myself a question that is more conducive to my overall physical, mental and emotional life goals. “How do I want to feel after I eat this?”  or, “What can I eat that might help me reach my current health goal?” perhaps, “Have I had enough fibre? protein? or healthy fats today?”  or even, “What can I use to decorate my plate?”

Depending on how assy your boss was that day, the answer to, “What do I feel like eating?” could be the insidious combination of a chocolate bar, a bag of chips, a can of pop, and a donut. Ooh, or ice cream–that perfect hit of fat and sugar in one deliciously evil, creamy little blend.

I love ice cream, but I always regret ice cream :(.  I would have been better off eating all those 8000 cans of beans that are stored in the basement.   Have you ever regretted eating junk food and storing energy?

How about a salad…have you ever regretted a salad?

I have never heard anyone say, “Oh god, I feel disgusting, I knew I shouldn’t have eaten that damn salad, I was just craving it soooo badly!”

Who cares what you FEEL like eating, you don’t always feel like eating a salad, but you NEED a salad more than a chocolate bar…every time!

My wish, for all of you who read this post is, that from this day forward, every single time you ask yourself that question — “What do I feel like eating”–this post will pop into your head, the words will haunt you, and you at least some of the time, change the quality of your question, which has the impact to change the quality of your diet.

Sending love from Sydney,

Maria

Oh and “assy” is a word, it’s just not in the dictionary, yet 🙂

 

 

There is a considerable amount of debate when it comes to the subject of the innate human diet.

Are we meant to be omnivores, pescatarians or herbivores?

Above all, this question was the one I wanted the answer to when I first decided to study nutrition. There were a number of convincing arguments from all sides, but in the end, I never got a definitive answer. Like all nutritionists, I was to collect the data that was either provided to me, or that which I found through independent research, and I was to formulate my own opinion–which I ultimately did. That said, I am open to the idea that I may one day change my theory, as we are constantly learning more and more about the human body and it’s intrinsic design.

No matter what side of the fence we are on, we all seem to collectively agree on one thing…. We are consuming way too much meat. The Earth and our bodies were not designed to consume animal products at the rate at which we are consuming them now. Even those who follow the hunter-gather diet (paleolithic diet), understand that our ancestors were highly unlikely to successfully hunt and kill an animal on a daily basis, let alone at every meal. The prevailing belief among paleolithic eaters is, that the diet was mainly comprised of plant-foods, while animals were captured and consumed less regularly. Fast-forward only a few-thousand years, where over 92% of the estimated 7.153 billion people on earth, are eating meat, some of whom, eat it at every meal. We are exhausting our resources at a rapid pace, making the task of raising all these animals in an honourable or wholesome manner, a near impossible feat.

To add fuel to the fire, there is a fair bit of dispute in the vegan world if we are in fact even meant to cook our food. Raw-veganism, if practiced properly, can provide us with all the nutrition the human body needs–including protein. I have heard every argument you can possibly think of, as to why a person believed they could not ever practice raw-veganism. I usually dominate that argument, but don’t worry, I am not writing this post to convert you. Well, not completely…

I am not 100% raw-vegan, but I am about 95% of the time–usually consuming meat about one day a week and it’s a personal choice that when I do choose to eat animal flesh, I prefer it comes from an organic, free-range source. I find this diet to be the perfect balance for me given my current circumstances, as I consider all the factors that currently affect my quality of life–socially, financially, physically and spiritually. It’s a personal choice, ultimate up to each individual, where in the spectrum they would like to lie. This means you don’t have to belong to one side or the other to do your part to practice conservation of our resources, and you can reap some of the health benefits of being a raw-vegan without completely giving up meat. You can choose to simply be a raw-vegan, even just one day a week. It doesn’t matter who you are, what kind of schedule you have, how much you are addicted to animal flesh, or how much you worry about meeting your protein needs, it’s easy to sustain from it for simply one day per week. Over time, just as it happened to me, you might find you actually prefer it, at which point you could decide to increase it 2 or 3 days a week. Either way, the idea is that it doesn’t necessarily have to be all or nothing, the whole world can benefit from at least one day a week.

The most common question I get when I pitch this idea is… Where will I get my protein?

Okay, first of all, chances are if you have been eating animal protein for your entire life, you will not develop a protein deficiency after just one day. None-the-less, this is one of the many reasons why it may be wise to practice your 1 day, as a RAW-food vegan.

Proteins are just various chains of amino-acids. Within the human body, there are 22 different animo-acids that are needed to make up these various chains. When we eat animal proteins, our bodies break them down into the individual amino-acids, and then it uses those amino-acids to build completely new chains of proteins. Plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables-including sea vegetables, nuts and seeds) as long as they are raw, are full of these amino-acids, but if one heats these foods above 108 degrees fahrenheit, all the amino acids die. Eating a variety of live (raw) plant-foods can provide you with all the nutrients your body needs to make protein. Again, just like my last post “decorate your plate”, the key here is–variety

It is important to understand that word “vegan” does not mean “healthy”. A junk-food vegan diet, in my opinion, can be one of the worst routes that one can take.

“If only for one day” is part 3 of 5 simple ideas that completely changed the way I eat. I look forward to hearing your feedback on this or any other posts.
Cheers,
Maria

 

 

Superfood me!

photo 2For a nutritionist, the word “superfood” is kind of a double edge sword. I, for one, am excited about this new trend, and encourage people to eat superfoods. I can only hope my new term “superfood me” one day grows to be as well known as “supersize me”. On the flip side, I fear that following this trend, without educating oneself, can actually lead to nutritional deficiency, allergies and binge eating. Yet, I understand that not everyone has the time or ability to learn about, and stay up to date with all the nutritional information out there… the truth is, they really don’t have to go that far to be healthy. There’s a trick to knowing if a food is a superfood, and you’re in luck because I’m about to share it with you. Now you don’t have to be a nutritionist, doctor, scientist, or journalist to be the first to know if something you are eating qualifies as a superfood. The most important thing to remember is that there is no one food coming to save you, no one nutrient that holds the key to a long, healthy life. When it comes to making the right food choices, the key ingredient is the spice of life- variety.

Superfood: A nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.

That’s it! Any nutrient-rich food qualifies as a superfood. So what is a really good indication if a food is nutrient-rich?

COLOR!

No, not like smarties 🙂

photo-31Live, whole-foods, vibrant in color are packed with nutrients, antioxidants, amino acids, and fibre, all of which are especially beneficial to your health. Each color is unique in the essential nutrients it contains (for example, orange foods indicate a presence of beta-carotene. In your body, beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A–an essential nutrient for your eyesight and a powerful antioxidant) for this reason, to help avoid nutritional deficiencies and to ensure a wholesome, balanced diet, it is important to incorporate an abundance of all colors of the rainbow. When preparing each meal, one of my main goals is to decorate my plate with a prism of colours; greens, blue, yellow, red, orange, purple and so on. The more chromatic your plate, the more superfoods it contains and the more bountiful in essential nutrients. Of course, not every plate needs to contain all the colours, but as a general rule, I like to aim to consume all these colors in the span of a day.

photo 4

Interior designers would agree with me that decorating is not limited to color. Additionally, adding an array of textures as you design your plate (ex. crunchy or chewy) plays a critical role in helping you feel satiated, invariably reducing food cravings after your meal. You often see an example of this in restaurants, when you order a salad, you may notice it is garnished with nuts, seeds or dried fruits.

Have fun with your meals, it’s not about labelling foods as “good” or “bad” and it’s not about counting calories. Fruits and vegetables are vibrant in color, high in nutrients and relatively low in calories. If your plate is mainly white, beige or brown, then it’s likely lacking a medley of nutrients. Mix it up!

Decorate your plate is part 2 of 5 simple ideas that changed the way I eat. Adding colour and texture to your diet is so elementary even a child could do it. In fact it’s an exciting, guilt-free way to introduce healthy eating habits to your children too.

I am looking forward to hearing if any of you implement these ideas and how they work for you. I invite you to repost or share with friends if you feel they may benefit from any of these posts. I am learning as you are, so your feedback on the blog is really appreciated by me and by other readers. Feel free to comment directly on the blog 🙂

Cheers,

Maria

As a nutritionist, I do my best to practice what I preach and exercise all the tools I have learned in my studies.  Of course, like everyone else, I have days where I eat things that I know I shouldn’t be eating, but for the most part I make my best effort to be as healthy as I can be.   People often make comments about how “good”  I am or they say things like “you have so much willpower, I could never do that.”   The truth is I haven’t always been this way… In fact I started out on the opposite end of the spectrum… it was not an uncommon practice for me to eat ice-cream for breakfast.   It took years of learning about nutrition, the body, and lifestyle choices to get this far and I still have a ways to go.   I went from a junk-foodoholic, to what some people would describe as a health nut.  Day to day it appeared as if nothing was changing, but as I look back everything is different.   I would like to share 5 of the simplest ideas that largely changed the way I eat.

These 5 ideas will be spread out over 5 separate posts.  If any of it resonates with you, then I encourage you to try each one as we go along.   And of course your feedback is always appreciated.

#1.  SAY NO TO CRACK

What incredibly addictive substance is hard, white, crystal like structure; rots your teeth; and according to Psychology Today, gets you hooked through invoking a feeling of euphoria triggered by dopamine, the pleasure-inducing chemical in our brain?   Well if you guessed CRACK, you’d be wrong, cause I was talking about SUGAR.

I know what you are thinking, in my title it said “simple ideas” and we all know cutting sugar from your diet is as simple as shoving a pencil through your own eye.

Morning coffee with sugar and a low-fat muffin with extra sugar.

Healthy mid-day veggie snack, dipped in a sugary salad dressing.

Lunch: a cup of liquid sugar  (Pop or juice)  to wash down two slices of bread (baked with sugar) stuffed with some kind of luncheon meat containing sugar.

Dinner: something sprinkled, dipped, coated or marinated in sugar, with a side of something else sprinkled, dipped, coated or marinated in sugar… and don’t forget your pop.

Dessert: I think it’s safe to assume there is going to be some sugar.

There are a ton of variables that lead to the craving of sugar, but one of the most common and maybe easiest to manage is low-blood sugar.   When your blood sugar gets low, your brain sends some very powerful and impossible to resist signals for you to quickly eat something.  So, we do exactly that.. we tend to choose from the above meals, or something likened to them.  This is too much of a good thing, your blood doesn’t need all that much.  In fact, your blood only needs a very small amount at a time, even a tablespoon of extra sugar in your bloodstream can cause you to go into a diabetic coma.   After eating a sugary meal, we now have excessive,  toxic amount of sugar in our blood stream.   Once your body senses this extremely dangerous level of sugar in the blood, what happens next is–insulin (also known as the fat storing hormone…super awesome for us ladies! NOT!) comes to the rescue and saves you from what you just ate. Our bodies are really freaking cool this way.  They respond very quickly in this emergency state, buuuuuut, there’s always a but…Insulin rushes in and takes the toxic dose of sugar from your blood and stores it, mainly in the abdominal region, as you guessed it.. BELLY FAT!   What’s even more exciting is, when all that insulin is released, it can take with it from your blood, ALL the sugar you just ate.   Hey look, that takes you right back to where we started–low blood sugar again!  Don’t worry, it wasn’t a complete loss, you did gain all that super sexy abdominal fat. By now the low blood sugar has got your brain sending those oh so familiar signals, inducing cravings that seem near impossible to refrain… Good thing you packed that sugary mid-day snack.

The Point?

If you start your day with a huge hit of crack, chances are you’ll be hitting that crack-pipe all the live long day.

The sugar train works much the same.

Try a half-cup of fresh fruit (ex. grapefruit) or berries before you eat any meals of the day.   This will help bring your blood sugar to a safe level, which may reduce cravings and can quite possibly help you make better food choices for the duration of your day.

Unrefined, whole foods, like fruits and vegetables, are high in fibre, which slows down the release of glucose into your bloodstream.   Processed or refined foods (white sugar, sweeteners, white breads, pastas, packaged foods etc)  are striped of  their fibre, causing rapid spikes to your body glucose level, invariably leading to insulin release.

It is very important to refrain from baked goods, and heavy starchy or refined carbs, especially at breakfast.  Sure, you’re more likely to burn off these early-morning calories, but you’re also now highly likely to ride the sugar-coaster all day.

Vegetables all always a safe bet.

Physical exercise is an excellent way to help balance blood sugar levels, this is why we tend to have less food cravings when we are physically active.

Here are the top two things I have learned since I arrived in Sydney.

#2.   Textbooks are not only great for learning things, but also awesome for killing cockroaches too.

This was a particularly fun and exciting lesson I learned while I was alone and in a brand new place today.

The How To Guide

Killing a cockroach in only thirteen easy steps:

Step 1.

Spot cockroach and make an annoying whiney sound.

Step 2.

Realize nobody is with you, so nobody can hear your annoying whiney sound and nobody is coming to help you.  This, like everything else on your trip, is up to you.

The Cockroach

The Cockroach

Step 3.

Get your priorities straight and take a picture of the cockroach for your girlfriends to see.

Step 4.
Have a conversation out loud with yourself and debate if you should figure out a way to save it and set it free, or if you should just stop stalling and kill the damn thing

Step 5.
Pace.  Repeatedly telling yourself to find a book.   “ok, a book, a book, a book, I just need a book.  I can do this, a book, what book should I use?  I just gotta get a book, I can do this…a book, a book.”

Step 6.

Oh come on, you know where your damn books are… just go get one.

Step 7.

Wrap the textbook in paper towel.

Step 8.

More paper towel.

Step 9.
Drop the textbook on the very large insect.

Step 10.
Repeat whiney noise when you realize you have to pick up the paper towel.    Bloody hell, just pick it up already.

Step 11

Pick up the paper towel and drop it again when you see your new dead friend splattered all over it.

Step 12.

Take another picture of what you have accomplished… your girlfriends would be proud.

Step 13.

Discard paper towel and cockroach.

I was very pleased with myself, I mean I am no expert, but I am thinking it takes most first timers at least 15-20 steps to kill their first cockroach.

The number 1 thing I would have to say I learned from being here is…

I have a profound respect for foreign immigrants!

Being in a new environment where you don’t have your support system and you really know nobody and nothing about the city is a challenge every single moment of the day…. AND I SPEAK ENGLISH!   Granted, nobody really understands anything I am saying with my Canadian accent.  They just stare at me, cock their heads, slightly drop their bottom jaw–so that their mouth is in a kind of O shape, squint their eyes (I’m not sure why the eye thing, they can see me just fine, I thought this was more of an ear thing) and wait for me to repeat what I am saying.  The few people who do understand me, initially disregard my questions and ask me what part of the states I am from.  But I mean eventually we get a conversation going and some friendly person helps me.   What do foreign immigrants who don’t speak English do?

Right about now I am feeling like a bit of an asshole for all the times I was annoyed when I called a restaurant and a foreigner answered the phone.    What was my problem?  At least they went out and got themselves a damn job, which is more than I can say for myself right now.   Yeah, yeah, I know I know, I’m going to school, but still, no more Mrs. Impatient Pants to the guy on the phone who is trying to learn English as fast as he possibly can, so he can get the hot-food delivered to her gluten-free, dairy-free majesty.

One of my wishes for myself during 2014 was to learn how to have more patience.    Lucky for me, so far, one of my wishes is coming true.  Damn it,  I knew I should have wished for a billion dollars.

Cheers from Sydney
M.

I have always wanted to try a juice-fast, but haven’t for various reasons.   So when I had to have my wisdom teeth removed only 10 days before I was headed for my travels–talk about life giving you lemons–I decided to take my lemons and make juice.  This is a summary of my experience.

BEFORE THE FAST

Health Concerns:  I am fairly healthy, but I have had constant trouble with inflammatory conditions.   Much of which were abated after I went gluten-free in 2011, but I have had two inflammatory conditions that continued to affect me.

Addictions or vices:  As a nutritionist these are hard to admit.   Caffeine, sugar, chocolate and ice cream 🙁

Typical diet:   About 90% raw food diet.   Maybe two or three servings of animal protein a week.  Depending on the week, one cheat day with sugary treats, chocolate and ice cream and usually all in one sitting… don’t judge me.

Weight: Not 100% sure, I failed to weigh myself because weight loss wasn’t the goal, but I’m usually pretty bang on about my estimated weight when I look in the mirror (I have weighed myself A LOT in my past obviously)  and if I had to guess I would say I was probably around 116-118lbs.

Medications:  I was on no prescription medication prior to the juice fast. However, due to my wisdom teeth surgery I had to take antibiotics, ibuprofen and extra strength tylenol.

Supplements:   I continued use of my probiotics through out the fast.

DAY 1

Not much happened today, I pretty much slept for the majority of it.

DAY 2

This was another uneventful day…you don’t work up much of an appetite just laying in bed and watching movies.   I think traveling to the freezer to get an ice pack for my face was about the extend of my physical activity that day.

DAY 3

Here’s where I started to feel hungry and where cravings began to reveal themselves–predominantly the craving for a crunchy texture.  There were random moments when I would impulsively reach for food with little thought, simply habitual, I almost had to remind myself that I was fasting.  I’ve heard many times in the past that the third day is usually the hardest day to get through, but if I had to rate it’s difficulty from 1-10, I would say it was about a 6.   I was quite pleased that I made it through this day with little trouble.

I came to realize that it had been 3 days since I experienced any inflammatory symptoms, but couldn’t definitively say if the juice fast contributed to that in anyway, because after all I was taking post surgery anti-inflammatories.

DAY 4

4 days without my morning dose of caffeine and I didn’t miss it at all, nor did I experience any difficulty starting my day without it.  I had an abundance of energy on day 4, and an even greater abundance of food cravings…life sure has a cheeky little way of packaging experiences.   I craved all sorts of things this day, random flashes where I could phantom smell, and even taste an array of aromas, textures, flavours of foods– Warm, buttery, salty popcorn was the strongest craving that day.   I considered eating, but instead I continually reminded myself that it was probably withdrawal  and if I just powered through it, then it wouldn’t be long before the cravings would subside.   For me day 4 was the suckiest.

DAY 5

Day 5 was a breeze, until I took a nap late in the afternoon, woke-up, got my period and decided that meant I deserved ice cream and chocolate.   FAIL!   I must say I quickly grew to be grateful for this defeat, because this is when learned that one of these two foods or maybe even both were the source of my inflammatory conditions.   10 minutes hadn’t even passed before I started having trouble.   I am certain this wasn’t psychosomatic because at this point I was more likely to be looking for reasons to keep eating my ice cream than looking for reasons to have to put it down.

DAY 6

Brushed myself off and continued the fast.   Exercise isn’t really recommended when cleansing, but I had been so sedentary that week my body just needed a run.   I had the best workout of my life that day.   I felt strong, energetic and healthy.   I drank 4 quarts of juice that day.  I needed larger quantities to feel full, but was completely satiated by the juice alone.   I loved this day.

I was no longer taking the ibuprofen or extra strength tylenol.   The only medication I was taking at this stage was the antibiotic.

DAY 7

Another awesome day, felt great and no cravings.   I did experience some symptoms of detox that day (use your imagination) but nothing crazy.

Still no sign of inflammation problems, which up until my fast, had been perpetual.

DAY 8

Felt so good that I wondered why I didn’t jump on the juice-fast bandwagon long ago.

DAY 9

Wished I had weighed myself at the start, because I definitely lost some weight and was disappointed I wouldn’t have accurate numbers for my blog.

DAY 10

Loved juicing so much at this point that I was trying to sort out a way to pick it up again–and maybe for much longer– once I travelled to Australia and settled in. This was also my last night with my friends before my trip.   We got together that night and my juice-fast experience came to a close as I sipped on a glass of wine.

NOW

I have been in Australia for four days, have been eating solid foods and picking up fresh, raw juice whenever I pass a juice bar.   I bought a Breville juicer today, it’s not as fancy as my Greenstar cold-press juicer back home, but for only $90 I was pleased with how it worked.   I think it will be a while yet before I attempt to go strictly on juice alone. I’d like to feel more settled in my new environment before I take on a challenge of that caliber, but it’s certainly on the list.   For now, I am just juicing A LOT and I still feel pretty damn good.

Cheers from Oz,

M.

Testing out my new Breville juicer.

Testing out my new Breville juicer.

Juiceoz2

Recipe: Mint, cucumber, zucchini and 1/2 a pear. Refreshing and delicious.

IMG_6945_2

greenjuice

Now that I have given a brief explanation on where I have come from, the natural order of the story would be… Where am I going?   As I am approaching the end of my current school studies, my friends and family ask me on a daily basis, “So… now what’s your plan?”  30 years on this earth, and what feels like an endless stream of planning.  I can’t remember the last time, if any, that one of my plans unfolded accordingly, and yet, with each detour life presents me, I make yet, another new plan.   I believe it’s was Albert Einstein who defined insanity as repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.   Ok Al, I get what your saying…. so where does that leave me now?

I got a one-way to ticket to Australia and thereafter, absolutely no plan!

Everyone who knows me, knows that this goes against everything that is me.   I have always wanted to try an adventure like this, but never let myself. Mainly, because I believed doing something like this was so outside my personality.  In my past, there have been times where simply the thought of living my life as casually as a gypsy, was enough to send the cells of my body into an overwhelming state of anxiety.   Question’s like–what if’s…? and how will I’s…? and then what’s…? and can I really’s…?–have always had a tendency to take up the lion’s share of thoughts in my mind.   What’s worse is, not once have I acted in the manner I predicted I would when placed in a new environment anyway.  So that makes countless hours wasted on scenario’s, coupled with perfectly orchestrated solutions to problems, that for the most part, I will never even have to experience. I have come to wonder if I really need to hoard all these hypothetical method’s and action-plans, that just get stored somewhere in my brain’s purgatory.   So, I am taking Einstein’s advice and I’m going try something a little different this time.

I have no idea my source of income, if any, when I get there.  No estimate as to how long I’d like to stay–could be a month, could be a year.  No inkling if I plan to stay in one city; travel around the country; or that entire region of the world.   I do know there are a few things I’d like to do…like take lots of photos;  and perhaps learn the guitar;  spend lots of time with the few friends I know in Sydney; and I’d absolutely loved to continue to learn and to write.

I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t born with a manual, so I know there’s a chance I may look back and think that, this is by far, the stupid idea I ever tried (I can add it to the list)…but at least I would have a better idea what works for me.  I realize I will never gain the ability to read the future, so the perpetual pre-planing for a million different story-lines that rarely come to fruition, is beginning to feel like a royal waste of time.  As foreign of a concept this is to my regularly overzealous brain,  I will actively attempt to drown out all the little voices and silence the question’s in my head.  For my stay in Australia–just like every new day–I am going to look at each obstacle given to me in that moment, I will collect the data presented to me, and use the resources around me to survive!   For now, my only plan for the next chapter is…to make my best effort to try and trust life.

Wish me luck.